September 23, 2016 / Ask Mike / Design / Fall 2016

Welcome readers with appealing entry points

Written by Mike Taylor, CJE

Two seconds is how long the average reader will look at a spread before turning the page. So it’s the designer’s job to try to capture those wandering eyes by using attractive yet planned design. Filling the page with more pictures will not help a reader stay on the spread. What will help is the use of several interesting entry points.

Working with students to understand design of a spread takes time and lots and lots of practice. Students should feel really comfortable with the basics prior to moving to more complicated design methods.

Student designers are turning to more and more modular elements. When created, these can be saved and stored for use on additional spreads. Modular elements allow for more consistency in the design and for more reader entry points on to the spread.

Entry points are important to design. Think about it – what element has been used forever by newspapers as the largest entry point to deliver their message? Correct: The headline. That is why they are 2/3 larger than any other piece on a spread. That is why it is suggested to use a font such as Helvetica and why they are bold.

Of course your main entry point is the dominant element, usually the photo. That photo, the headline and the main story all should work to get the reader onto the page. Think of these three items as forming a triangle.

Once you are great with creating this entry point, how do you open up a spread to offer the reader other areas of interest?


Here’s a spread to make a copy of and keep for reference. The staff from Haltom High School in Haltom City, Texas, provided their students with handy tips regarding technology, note organization, shoes and gasoline. The dominant photo, secondary photo and headline offer three entry points, so do the headlines to each item around the spread.

Advisers across the country have multiple ideas and beliefs on entry points for a spread:

Jim Jordan, adviser at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, California, believes the designer should always be in control of how a reader processes the information on the spread. Having several entry points will allow a reader to gather the information presented.

One of the ways to direct readers is the use of white space. Remember, a strong use of white space will incorporate three levels:

  • A 0-6-point spacing (close register) will create a package of like items.
  • A 6-12-point spacing is the traditional spacing to separate items or columns of copy.
  • A rail or grid is used to isolate a secondary story package.

Lori Oglesbee from Prosper High School in Prosper, Texas, believes a type hierarchy will work the same way the dominant photo does. The largest headline on the spread should be 2/3 larger than any other headline for selected packages/modules.

All secondary modules should have small attractive headlines, and should be designed with all design rules: dominance, then copy and finally white space to the outside. Yes, even within a small module. That module, however, should not overpower the main dominant photo, headline and story. Think of the module as a side salad to the main course.

Susan Massy, adviser at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in Shawnee, Kansas, believes some main courses do not need the side salad approach. If the story, dominant element and headlines work well, there’s no need to add a few more modules; they simply distract from those stories/photos. Designers, photographers and writers should know when a story needs more elements and when it does not.


While standard entry points exist on the varsity football spread in the Lair from Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in Shawnee, Kansas, the staff added unique eye-catchers to those spots. The headline package not only includes a photo but a section of the subhead is highlighted. And the copy is not just a story, but spotlights on three senior players on the team with their names as subheads. Entry points also include the dominant photo, two photo packages and a sidebar graphic on new uniforms. By the way, this is a perfect way to cover your football team in a positive light when their record is 1-8.

“Entry points can take many forms. The most obvious is the headline and/or dominant photo, but an unexpected splash of color, an isolated element of any kind, a texture can each draw the attention of the reader and will create a new entry point,” Massy said.

Pat Monroe, adviser at Burges High School in El Paso, Texas, believes no matter what, entry points should not look forced. Just because you have several modular elements designed does not mean you have to use them on a spread.

Emily Arnold, adviser at Haltom High School in Haltom City, Texas, said the use of entry points will allow for a spread’s compositional flow.

“Our eyes are drawn to repetition of elements and contrast as well. Multiple entry points will help establish that repetition and rhythm,” Arnold said.

Look at the overall story you are trying to tell. Often a small photo or sidebar area could enhance the story. If so, decide on format, such as a timeline, he said/she said or illustration, and create a module. Place this module on the spread, and you will have a secondary place for the reader to enter.

Like everything else when it comes to design, moderation and simplicity go a long way. Use or overuse of entry points can confuse readers.

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Mike Taylor, CJE

Mike Taylor, CJE, sees things differently, and as a journalism specialist for Walsworth, he uses that creative edge to help yearbook staffs across the country put together the yearbook they dream about. A former award-winning yearbook adviser, Mike has been awarded the JEA Medal of Merit, CSPA Gold Key and Florida Scholastic Press Association Gold Medallion. Follow Mike on Pinterest at taylormjc.